A/N: I know what you're thinking...
*in Molly voice* Where HAVE you been?
In my defence, I was mentally blocked from writing anything for quite a while. Over a year, actually. And this is my first attempt at getting back on the horse. I admit, I watched all 19 hours of those Harry Potter movies to get here, and I don't regret a second of it.
Quick warning about this chapter. You might think that I hate Ron, but I don't. He's a hot head. I would be lying if I tried to ignore that part of his personality. So, anyways, wish me luck. This is the first time I'm posting anything HP related, let alone Harry/Hermione related in so long. I hope I don't disappoint.
The very idea of going back to work caused dread to spread through Hermione at an alarming rate. There were several times when she had considered contacting the Ministry so she could claim a sick day.
After a quick bath, Hermione wrapped herself in a large fluffy towel and seated herself on the edge of her bed, her hair still falling across her shoulders in large wet ringlets that she knew she had to tame if she wanted her hair to look anywhere near decent. She simply stared at her open cupboard, at the robes she usually wore for work, contemplating the large smiles and animated conversations she would have to endure from the moment she stepped into the Ministry and headed to her office.
With a quick shake of her head, she decided that she should embrace the courage of her school house, and without further thought, she quickly dried herself with the practiced flick of her wand and dressed silently.
The feeling hit her once again as she was about to leave the apartment she had purchased a year after the Battle of Hogwarts. She stared at her impressively large fireplace, thinking that maybe she should contact Harry and skip one day of work under the guise of celebrating their honeymoon. There was a new bookstore that opened in Muggle London. She was yet to visit the shop and check their inventory for want of time.
Berating herself for stalling, she took the Floo-powder in hand and stepped into the green flames, calling out for the Ministry of Magic.
Perhaps she was overreacting. Perhaps work would be just as droll as any other day of the week.
From the moment Hermione entered her workplace, she was greeted with shocked expressions. It appeared that no one expected her to work the day after her wedding day.
At first, she told everyone who asked, that her husband and herself had decided to postpone the honeymoon because of work that had to be completed, even under dire circumstances such as a missed holiday. She answered so many questions so many times that the first thing she did when she got to her office was to tell her secretary to send an inter-office memo to all the heads of the departments she deals with to tell them that she had attended work due to pressing matters.
Once she did open her office door, she couldn't help but pause as her eyes widened at the scene in front of her.
"Sorry about that," her secretary said sheepishly as she stood up to join Hermione near the door. "I thought I had time to get rid of all this before you came back."
Hermione blinked at the many large bouquets that littered her office with a burst of colour. There were plenty covering almost every surface of her bookshelves and cabinets, the three chairs and even large sections of the floor while giving her a small path towards her desk. "Who…?" she asked softly, unable to finish the sentences.
Alice shrugged. "The cards that I read said they apologise for not being able to make it for the wedding and that they wish you and Harry the very best."
Hermione couldn't help but look at the younger woman in utter confusion, a frown marring her features. "There were people who didn't come for the wedding?"
"Of course there were!" Alice said with a small laugh.
"I would have never thought that after seeing everyone who came."
"How could you not know who you invited?"
"Because we didn't invite anyone." Hermione stepped cautiously into her office, a heavy sigh escaping her as she wondered what to do with all these large, and clearly expensive, flowers. "The Ministry handled the wedding."
Alice's eyes widened. "The Ministry handled it? As in, the Ministry told you who to invite?"
"No," Hermione said carefully as she finally made it to her desk. "I meant that the Ministry threw us the wedding. All Harry and I had to do was show up."
"They used Ministry funds for your wedding?" Alice asked, scandalised.
"If they had, we would have been able to stop it. No, they didn't use Ministry funds. I don't know where they got the money from, but Harry seems to think that the Ministers themselves paid for everything." Hermione didn't mention that she suspected the same thing. After all, there was no proof she could base her assumptions on.
"Why would the Ministry be so invested in your wedding?" Alice asked in confusion. "Do they pay for the weddings of everyone who had been drafted by the Marriage Law?"
Hermione shrugged herself as she carefully lifted a vase full of flowers so it wasn't precariously close to a set of documents she needed this morning. "I really don't know. But I intend to find out."
Her secretary nodded and made a move to leave, stopping only when Hermione called out her name.
"Could you send these bouquets to St. Mungo's? Someone should enjoy these flowers."
Hermione ended up sending them all away save one, which she kept on a bookshelf behind her. The bouquet was made up of rare lilies that were known for magical healing properties. It was both beautiful and practical, the type of gift that someone who really knew her, would have no problem choosing for her.
Smiling at the card that came with the bouquet, she penned her reply to an old friend from Bulgaria she hadn't spoken to for so long.
Hermione spent her day buried in any work that she could get her hands on, so long as she need not have stepped outside her office to get it done.
Those who knew her well, and have seen her working late on her birthdays until Harry, Ron and Ginny had forcefully dragged her out of the Ministry to celebrate, didn't even bat an eyelid when she locked herself in her office and refused to speak to anyone.
It took quite a while before she could even focus on the work that needed to be done, but once she finally got into her usual mind-set, she didn't look up until a firm knock on her door alerted her to the fact that her neck was stiff and her back was cramping. Her eyes widened when she looked at the Muggle clock on her table that told her she had been sitting in the same position for nearly four hours.
"I said no visitors, Alice."
The knock that followed was louder and firmer with a distinct musical pattern to it. The corner of her lips quirked upward with amusement when she recognised the tune.
"Come on in, Harry."
Harry walked in with a flourish, a wrapped sandwich in his hand that he deposited on her desk before falling onto the chair on the other side of her desk. He was just about to raise his legs and put his feet on her desk when a firm glare from Hermione stopped him. It didn't matter how many years they had known each other and how many years they had worked together, Harry was not going to ruin her office the way he had already ruined his.
Harry rolled his eyes as he kept his feet firmly on the floor and away from the top of her desk. "Brought you something. Thought you might not have eaten anything today."
She smiled gratefully, already unwrapping the sandwich that she knew would be one of her favourites. "Thank you. I just didn't have the appetite."
A bite later, Hermione raised a mocking eyebrow as she swallowed the tuna mayonnaise as her stomach grumbled from a pang of hunger.
"Did something happen?"
"No. Nothing." Harry shook his head, but the way his eyes sparkled and the barely hidden smile he was trying to stifle made her think that he wasn't trying very hard to lie.
"Then why are you so happy?"
His eyes widened with mock surprise. "What makes you think that I'm happy?"
"Harry Potter," she began sternly, an air of superiority overtaking her tone. "I have known you for years. Don't think you can lie to me."
He grinned widely before he fished out a rolled up piece of parchment from the pockets of his robes and dropped it on her desk. "Go on. Read it."
Hermione scanned the document before her eyes widened. She couldn't believe he had such control over himself. She had expected him to jump off the walls with excitement once he had heard. "You got your privileges back!"
"I can go back to the field. I don't have to stay behind a desk the whole day anymore," he finished with a satisfied sigh.
"Harry, that's wonderful." She eyed him carefully. "And there's nothing wrong with staying behind a desk all day."
His smile faltered somewhat. "You don't seem that happy about it."
Hermione chose to study the document on her desk, a frown marring her features as she studied Kingsley's signature. "I'm not unhappy about it," she said diplomatically.
He let out a low sigh, one that sounded long-suffering yet habitual. "What is it, then? What's wrong with Kingsley giving back my field privileges?"
Hermione took a bite of her sandwich, using the food as a way to give her time to think up an answer that wouldn't upset her best friend.
Harry kept his gaze on her patiently, his expression one of open curiosity.
"He kept his promise," she said finally.
Harry nodded as he eyed her with confusion. "He did."
"Why was it so important that he blackmail us like this to get married, Harry? What is he playing at?"
Harry dropped his head, a sound of frustration escaping him before he raised his head to face her. "I know." When Hermione's lips parted to say more, he spoke over her. "I know. But for five minutes can't we just be happy that he actually did what he said he would?"
Hermione worried her lower lip thoughtfully. "I suppose…"
"Hermione," Harry said purposefully. "Just be happy for me?"
Hermione smiled despite the need to kick him, came over her. Of course she was happy for him. Didn't he know that? "I'm happy for you. It's just that… You know I don't like it when you go out in the field—"
"Right. Sorry, Harry. I'm happy for you."
He was beaming widely even before she could finish the sentence.
After he left, with a stern warning that she should remember to eat, Hermione spent a few minutes contemplating her options before asking her secretary to ensure she has a meeting with the Minister for Magic before the day ended.
There were very few things Harry had patience for in life, and warding off insults from his best friend because he was in a bad mood, wasn't one of them.
"No, Harry. As I said before, that won't work. If you think that I am going to let you—"
The entire room was silenced by his outburst. Wide eyes stared at him as if he had grown a second head, but Harry only had eyes for one person. One particularly tall, brooding redhead.
He ignored the fact that the meeting was lead by Ron and that he was currently standing while Harry and four others were seated around a long table looking over files of the recent case of a missing Death Eater he had joined. He also ignored the fact that Ron's eyes narrowed at Harry, the moment he spoke. The fact that it was the first time Ron had listened to him in over an hour didn't help matters.
"You've got a problem, Harry?"
"Not really," Harry couldn't help but say somewhat sarcastically. "Not if you consider that you have turned down every idea that I've put forward—"
"None of what you said would have worked."
Harry took a quick, deep breath, knowing that he had to keep himself calm. "You don't know that," he said slowly, his tone so controlled that anyone could see he was trying hard to keep his anger at bay.
"That's where you're wrong. I do know that. Just like how I know that just because you're 'The Chosen One' it doesn't mean that we have to listen to whatever you say," Ron stated bitterly.
Harry stared at him, completely wide-eyed, unable to comprehend that Ron, of all people, had just said that to him. He was speechless.
But, only for a moment.
He stood up and faced the others. "Get out."
The four Aurors eyed him in surprise, before their glances fell on each other and then landed on Ron.
Ron stood straighter, his eyes strained on each and every one of them.
"He has no authority—"
"I have every authority. Or did you forget that Kingsley assigned this job to me?"
At this, Ron couldn't help but stay silent, his jaw twitching with the need to say protest.
Harry took this to mean his assent. "Leave. Now," he said softly, his eyes staying on Ron and the way he stubbornly looked away from him. "We'll call you back later."
The two of them waited silently as the Aurors picked up their things and left the room. Harry knew that this altercation between them would reach the ears of anyone who was willing to listen. However, he also knew that whatever the problem was, they had to handle it now. There was no way they could work together the way they once did, unless they sorted their issues out.
Harry had a plan. He had intended to speak logically, calmly, voicing his concerns while listening and accepting what Ron had to say.
Perhaps it was the fact that it felt like they were kids not so long ago or the fact that he had lost his patience, because he just didn't understand what he could have done. Whatever the reason, Harry's good intentions were practically non-existent by the time he spoke.
"What was that all about?"
"You weren't saying anything—"
"Just come off it," Harry snapped over him. He was in no mood to waste time like this.
Ron eyed him suspiciously in a way that reminded Harry of a time when his name was pulled out of the Goblet of Fire. "What did you tell Hermione?"
If Harry had expected anything, it was not that. "Hermione? What about Hermione?"
"You said something to her," Ron said adamantly. "I want to know what that bloody was."
"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about."
Ron looked as if he didn't believe him in the slightest. "Don't you? As far as I know, everything was fine… until you got married."
Harry eyed him in confusion. It felt like he was getting a headache from what he didn't understand in this conversation. "That was yesterday, Ron. What could have possibly happened since yesterday?"
"You tell me."
Harry took a deep breath once more, knowing that he clearly needed to be the logical person here. "What is going on? What did Hermione do?"
He watched as his best friend's shoulders slumped in defeat and he rubbed a hand over his face with agitation. "We had this… understanding. Nothing would change once you two were married. Nothing."
Harry nodded. "Right." He would be lying if he said that he had thought the same thing. They never discussed it, but it was understood. He and Hermione were married through a document only. They will continue to live apart and have separate lives as they had always done.
"So, maybe you could tell me…" started Ron, his voice coming in harsher than before, "why she has changed her mind. Why she insists that you two are actually married. Because you're not, Harry. You're not married. Hermione and I, we are supposed to be married and you are supposed to marry Ginny. That's the bloody plan."
"Hang on," Harry muttered, confused. "What do you mean by she says we are actually married. We're not really married. Hermione knows that."
"Really?" Ron asked him, mockingly. "Because this morning, she wouldn't even kiss me."
Harry couldn't help but ask the question in his mind sincerely. "Why wouldn't she kiss you?"
"Because she's bloody married to you, apparently," Ron snapped.
He sounded so disgusted with the thought that it made Harry pause as he considered what might have gone through Hermione's mind. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't understand what would have made Hermione deny Ron, in the way that she had.
"I'll talk to her," he said, defeated. After all, what else could he have said? "I'll get to the bottom of this and we'll sort it out."
Ron just shook his head as he paced the length of the small space with long limbs, his shoulders hunching in a way that betrayed his agitation. "This is not what I wanted, Harry."
"I know that. But you can't take it out on me whenever you and Hermione have a tiff."
"Why not?" Ron questioned Harry slowly, his tone defeated. "It's your fault, innit? Hermione…. She's not the type to back down. When she knew this was the only way to fight it, it was obvious that she would take it. You didn't have to say 'yes'."
Sighing, Harry pinched the bridge of his nose so hard his glasses nearly fell off. "We can't keep having this same argument." Every time he thought they were past it, Ron would say something. It was beyond frustrating.
Letting out a low breath, Ron pulled out a chair and practically collapsed onto it, his fingers entwining and forming a fist. "You think I want to keep talking about this? You think I want to hate you?"
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Ron beat him to it.
"You have what I want. It would be so much easier if nothing changed."
Nodding, Harry made his way towards his best friend. "I'll talk to her. I'll sort it out."
Ron's dry chuckle did nothing to appease the sliver of guilt working its way through Harry's chest. "You bloody better."